When I was 21 I spent a semester in Uganda. It was a combination of my thirst for adventure, my belief that I could change the world, a sudden need to escape from a certain boy, and that whisper that Africa breathes over you that you can’t quite explain unless you’ve been there.
A recipe for disaster if ever there was one. It was good and bad and hard and lonely and different and lonely and stretching and lonely.
In the end, I did some good things, bought some typical souvenirs, cried buckets full of tears and came home a little earlier than planned. It would be 8 years before I found my way back to the Pearl of Africa, many of them spent feeling like a complete failure because I hadn’t thrived when I had the chance.
It didn’t look like I thought it would. I didn’t respond like I thought I would. Things didn’t go like I thought they would.
Because the fulfillment of the promise doesn’t always show up just like we expect it to.
”But the men who had gone up with him said, “We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are.” And they spread among the Israelites a bad report about the land they had explored. They said, “The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size. We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.”
It devastates me to read this on the other side of the story. To see the Israelites with one foot raised ready to claim their soil, so close to living out the fulfillment of a promise made generations ago. And then to see them, one more time, miss the entire point and, this time, Miss the Entire Point.
They couldn’t see past themselves. They couldn’t see past the obstacle. They couldn’t see past the fact that this was not how they imagined entering the Promised Land. They saw it as a gift to be given and didn’t see how this was a gift.
But as critical as this moment was, I don’t think it was ever actually about this moment. No, this was about the Red Sea, the Manna, the Arounds, and the Foot of the Mountain; this was meant to be the culmination of faith developed, trust nurtured, covenant sealed and hope fulfilled.
We cannot expect to ignore God’s provision in the wilderness, to exchange His Presence for that which is just present, to beg him to release us back into the hands of our enemies and then suddenly trust his leading when we arrive at the Land. No, we cannot expect our shallow wilderness sight to be developed overnight into eyes that see deeply when we reach the Promise.
We are banking on the promise to elicit our response of faith, when the work of the wilderness is to establish it.
We can’t get water out of a well we haven’t dug. And because, sometimes, the promise doesn’t look like we expected, sometimes we’re gonna need a well.
We’re going to stand at the edge of fulfillment, feet poised to claim our soil, and we are going to find out if our response will be, “we can’t” or “we can surely do it.”
The wilderness is for establishing ourselves as Those Who Trust the Lord. Those Who Wait on Him. Those Whose Faith Runs Deep. Those Who Take Possession of the Land.
We will be worriers or we will be warriors, but the choice won’t be made in that moment. That’s what the wilderness is for.
This post is part of 31 days of truth from the wilderness. Click here to see all blogs in this series.